Книга Farewell, My Lovely. Содержание - 7
“We might miss out on the Moose,” Nulty said. “Guys get away once in a while. Even big guys.” His eyes were suspicious also, insofar as they contained any expression at all. “How much she slip you?”
“How much this old lady slip you to lay off?”
“Lay off what?”
“Whatever it is you’re layin’ off from now on.” He moved his thumbs from his armholes and placed them together in front of his vest and pushed them against each other. He smiled.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I said, and went out of the office, leaving his mouth open.
When I was about a yard from the door, I went back and opened it again quietly and looked in. He was sitting in the same position pushing his thumbs at each other. But he wasn’t smiling any more. He looked worried. His mouth was still open.
He didn’t move or look up. I didn’t know whether he heard me or not. I shut the door again and went away.
They had Rembrandt on the calendar that year, a rather smeary self-portrait due to imperfectly registered color plate. It showed him holding a smeared palette with a dirty thumb and wearing a tam-o’-shanter which wasn’t any too clean either. His other hand held a brush poised in the air, as if he might be going to do a little work after a while, if somebody made a down payment. His face was aging, saggy, full of the disgust of life and the thickening effects of liquor. But it had a hard cheerfulness that I liked, and the eyes were as bright as drops of dew.
I was looking at him across my office desk at about four-thirty when the phone rang and I heard a cool, supercilious voice that sounded as if it thought it was pretty good. It said drawlingly, after I had answered:
“You are Philip Marlowe, a private detective?”
“Oh — you mean, yes. You have been recommended to me as a man who can be trusted to keep his mouth shut. I should like you to come to my house at seven o’clock this evening. We can discuss a matter. My name is Lindsay Marriott and I live at 4212 Cabrillo Street, Montemar Vista. Do you know where that is?”
“I know where Montemar Vista is, Mr. Marriott.”
“Yes. Well, Cabrillo Street is rather hard to find. The streets down here are all laid out in a pattern of interesting but intricate curves. I should suggest that you walk up the steps from the sidewalk cafe. If you do that, Cabrillo is the third street you come to and my house is the only one on the block. At seven then?”
“What is the nature of the employment, Mr. Marriott?”
“I should prefer not to discuss that over the phone.”
“Can’t you give me some idea? Montemar Vista is quite a distance.”
“I shall be glad to pay your expenses, if we don’t agree. Are you particular about the nature of the employment?”
“Not as long as it’s legitimate.”
The voice grew icicles. “I should not have called you, if it were not.”
A Harvard boy. Nice use of the subjunctive mood. The end of my foot itched, but my bank account was still trying to crawl under a duck. I put honey into my voice and said: “Many thanks for calling me, Mr. Marriott. I’ll be there.”
He hung up and that was that. I thought Mr. Rembrandt had a faint sneer on his face. I got the office bottle out of the deep drawer of the desk and took a short drink. That took the sneer out of Mr. Rembrandt in a hurry.
A wedge of sunlight slipped over the edge of the desk and fell noiselessly to the carpet. Traffic lights bong-bonged outside on the boulevard, interurban cars pounded by, a typewriter clacked monotonously in the lawyer’s office beyond the party wall. I had filled and lit a pipe when the telephone rang again.
It was Nulty this time. His voice sounded full of baked potato. “Well, I guess I ain’t quite bright at that,” he said, when he knew who he was talking to. “I miss one. Malloy went to see that Florian dame.”
I held the phone tight enough to crack it. My upper lip suddenly felt a little cold. “Go on. I thought you had him cornered.”
“Was some other guy. Malloy ain’t around there at all. We get a call from some old window-peeker on West Fifty-four. Two guys was to see the Florian dame. Number one parked the other side of the street and acted kind of cagey. Looked the dump over good before he went in. Was in about an hour. Six feet, dark hair, medium heavy built. Come out quiet.”
“He had liquor on his breath too,” I said.
“Oh, sure. That was you, wasn’t it? Well, Number Two was the Moose. Guy in loud clothes as big as a house. He come in a car too but the old lady don’t get the license, can’t read the number that far off. This was about a hour after you was there, she says. He goes in fast and is in about five minutes only. Just before he gets back in his car he takes a big gat out and spins the chamber. I guess that’s what the old lady saw he done. That’s why she calls up. She don’t hear no shots though, inside the house.”
“That must have been a big disappointment,” I said.
“Yeah. A nifty. Remind me to laugh on my day off. The old lady misses one too. The prowl boys go down there and don’t get no answer on the door, so they walk in, the front door not being locked. Nobody’s dead on the floor. Nobody’s home. The Florian dame has skipped out. So they stop by next door and tell the old lady and she’s sore as a boil on account of she didn’t see the Florian dame go out. So they report back and go on about the job. So about an hour, maybe hour and a half after that, the old lady phones in again and says Mrs. Florian is home again. So they give the call to me and I ask her what makes that important and she hangs up in my face.”
Nulty paused to collect a little breath and wait for my comments. I didn’t have any. After a moment he went on grumbling.
“What you make of it?”
“Nothing much. The Moose would be likely to go by there, of course. He must have known Mrs. Florian pretty well. Naturally he wouldn’t stick around very long. He would be afraid the law might be wise to Mrs. Florian.”
“What I figure,” Nulty said calmly, “Maybe I should go over and see her — kind of find out where she went to.”
“That’s a good idea,” I said. “If you can get somebody to lift you out of your chair.”
“Huh? Oh, another nifty. It don’t make a lot of difference any more now though. I guess I won’t bother.”
“All right,” I said. “Let’s have it whatever it is.”
He chuckled. “We got Malloy all lined up. We really got him this time. We make him at Girard, headed north in a rented hack. He gased up there and the service station kid recognized him from the description we broadcast a while back. He said everything jibed except Malloy had changed to a dark suit. We got county and state law on it. If he goes on north we get him at the Ventura line, and if he slides over to the Ridge Route, he has to stop at Castaic for his check ticket. If he don’t stop, they phone ahead and block the road. We don’t want no cops shot up, if we can help it. That sound good?”
“It sounds all right,” I said. “If it really is Malloy, and if he does exactly what you expect him to do.”
Nulty cleared his throat carefully. “Yeah. What you doing on it — just in case?”
“Nothing. Why should I be doing anything on it?”
“You got along pretty good with that Florian dame. Maybe she would have some more ideas.”
“All you need to find out is a full bottle,” I said.
“You handled her real nice. Maybe you ought to kind of spend a little more time on her.”
“I thought this was a police job.”
“Oh sure. Was your idea about the girl though.”
“That seems to be out — unless the Florian woman is lying about it.”
“Dames lie about anything — just for practice,” Nulty said grimly. “You ain’t real busy, huh?”
“I’ve got a job to do. It came in since I saw you. A job where I get paid. I’m sorry.”